How to save a million (or two) on health insurance

There is legitimate discussion about spending on projects like renovating town buildings and giving teachers raises, and then there is just plain waste. What the school spends on health insurance falls into the latter category.

Digital, yes; iPads, no

Against the backdrop of the enormous school budget, buying iPads for the school board is small potatoes. But more disconcerting than the dollars in question is the lack of basic understanding and use of technology by a group of community leaders who should make it a personal priority to functionally use a medium that is so critical to education today.

Of the 51 readers who commented on the Sun's Tele-Talk this week on buying iPads for Conway School Board members, not one person thought it was a good idea.

Why not? Lots of reasons — apparently none of which were noted by the school board.

First is expense; second is technology.

This criticism may be jumping the gun, as the technology committee hasn't yet met, but as Sun readers pointed out, there are plenty of less-expensive options than fancy iPads. Google Chromebooks, for example, which the Sun uses for basic functions, are $239 brand-new on Amazon and work just fine.

Bigger issues are training and effectiveness.

Going digital is more than turning on a screen; it's a change in how one functions in life. Buy seven computers for seven school board members, and maybe half would collect dust.

If school board members don't already have a laptop or tablet computer, it's highly unlikely they know how to use one. Who would train them? At what cost?

Of course, school board members are trainable, but if they aren't digitally savvy as middle-aged adults, chances are, they never will be.

Then there's the question of whether school-bought computers should be made available for members' own personal use. The logic here, of course, is that they will be, and should be. They'll need that screen time to become comfortable using one effectively for their board work.

That said, it makes sense to reduce paper consumption, and there's nothing wrong with reasonably incentivizing board members to do so.

Here's how to do it less bureaucratically.

Why not challenge board members to buy their own computers, then reimburse a percentage of the cost if and when they demonstrate they are using them for school board business? The test for proficiency is when they stop asking for the mounds of paper they now get at meetings.

We suggest a 50 percent reimbursement (with a cap), which is generous based on the likely mix of school and personal use.

This way, school board members get to buy a computer of their choosing, and the inevitable questions over private and public use are eliminated.

It also will not only keep meetings running smoothly, as only interested members will get a computer, but it will save a ton of time and energy developing a one-size-fits-all-computer-school-board program that is destined to fail — both politically and practically.

Use the buildings we have

The latest proposal from the Conway School Board to the town to take over a chunk of Kennett Middle School for the rec center arrived DOA, so it was predictable that the selectmen voted it down unanimously.

 

Yes, Hillary

For the 10 percent of voters who’ve yet to make up their minds, and facing a Hobson’s choice, here is a way to rationalize checking the box for Hillary Clinton.

Clearly, both Clinton and Donald Trump are seriously flawed candidates.

Clinton is an elitist, full of hubris, and has left a long trail of ethical lapses. Whether stealing furnishings when she left the White House in 2000, or not recognizing conflicts of interest with her private email server or the Clinton Foundation, Clinton fudges the lines.

And Trump? It’s legitimate to wonder how anyone can vote for a rich-boy, megalomaniac, sexual predator who doesn’t pay taxes and welches on commitments to charities.

Setting aside their disturbing personal attributes and partisan politics, the choices look different when the race is framed as establishment and the haves versus the outliers and the have-nots.

Clinton represents the establishment and the haves, as did the 15 Republican primary challengers Trump vanquished. Trump, of course, represents the outliers and have-nots, as did Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Trump’s brand of antiestablishmentarianism is troubling because it is based on fear and false premises of how things work.

Most obvious is his use of falsehoods to appeal to white, displaced, working-class men.

Industrial production in this country is at the highest level ever and twice what it was in the 1980s. An example of how this can be is a new refrigerator plant opened by GE in Kentucky a few years ago. It takes a total of two man-hours to make a fridge. The rest of the work, of course, is automated.

Millions of manufacturing jobs are not coming back. The textile mills on the Merrimack are not coming back. The paper mills in Berlin and Maine are not coming back. Even the newspaper industry, which has shed 40,000 jobs in the past 15 years, is not coming back.

The answer is not to give false hope, like Trump, but acknowledge the truth. We have a shortage of skilled workers, not jobs, and the challenge is to retrain or relocate people whose jobs are lost forever.

The alternative to fear is to punt till 2020, and vote for steady-as-she-goes (pun intended). Flaws and all, Clinton embodies the establishment and a steady hand. Trump represents a brand of antiestablishment that is dangerous.

A speech writer for George W. Bush, David Fraum, coined the term “Axis of Evil.” This is how he justified his vote for Clinton.

“This country is not so broken as to allow a President Trump to arrest opponents or silence the media. Trump is a man without political ideas. Trump’s main interest has been and will continue to be self-enrichment by any means, no matter how crooked.

“Your hand may hesitate to put a mark beside the name, Hillary Clinton. You’re not doing it for her. The vote you cast is for the republic and the Constitution.”